All Things Become New
Sep 02, 2016
The book of Revelation is the prophetic history of the first Creation “Week” of 7,000 years, ending with the Great White Throne judgment. Very little is said about conditions after this, and the book is really incomplete in that sense. It ends with only overcomers and believers being reconciled to God, with the rest of creation yet in process through the lake of fire.
By understanding the nature of the lake of fire, we can see that the Restoration of All Things is implied, but it does not state this explicitly. In studying biblical slavery, however, we see that the mind of God is for divine judgment to be administered in love, and not merely in power. This is seen clearly in the law of redemption, where God’s desire and will is for slaves to be ruled by family, rather than by strangers.
Likewise, it is a violation of the law to mistreat a slave. If a slave master knocked out the tooth or an eye of the slave, he was to be set free (Exodus 21:26, 27). Though the law was there to uphold a slave master’s right to be obeyed, it was also there to limit a slave master’s rights. Slavery among the nations usually gave men the right of life and death over their slaves, but God’s law makes it clear that we are all God’s slaves, redeemed from slavery to “Egypt” or “Babylon,” and that therefore slave masters too are subject to a higher Power. All must exercise their authority as stewards, not as owners.
At the Great White Throne, every knee will bow. This marks a great change in earth’s history, because for the first time since Adam sinned, all men will lose their right to sin and will be held accountable to earthly masters if they violate the law of God. If they sin, judgment will be swift. No longer will powerful men get away with injustice and mistreatment of others for their entire careers.
Yet we must understand that at this point in history, all men will finally understand the truth. All will realize that Christ has the divine right to rule and to be obeyed. They will swear allegiance to Him, and they will all be converted by that point in time. Hence, their time in the lake of fire will be served as bond slaves of Jesus Christ, which is not bad at all, even if their flesh yet desires to sin.
The Last Enemy
In the end, it is the Apostle Paul who reveals the most about the end of earth’s history when the last enemy itself is abolished. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:26, “the last enemy that will be abolished is death.” Physical death—that is, the first death, or mortality—will be abolished by resurrection when the rest of the dead are summoned to the Great White Throne. John says in Revelation 20:14, “death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.”
In other words, no one will be dead anymore, and Hades (“hell”) itself will no longer hold anyone. The fact that Hades is cast into the lake of fire shows that Hades too is subject to the limitations of the fiery law. The law in Leviticus 19:32 is just one of those laws, which demand that all men “rise up before the grayheaded,” that is, before the Ancient of Days. Hades is subject to that law and cannot hold any man when the Ancient of Days appears.
The first death will be replaced by the second death, which is the lake of fire itself. Many think that this second death is the same as the first—either a torture pit or a place of annihilation. Both views, however, treat Hades as if it still exists beyond the general resurrection. One group says that all sinners will be tortured in “hell” for eternity, while the other says that all sinners will be annihilated in the grave (their concept of “hell”) for eternity. Neither view is lawful, and both retain Hades, though with different descriptions.
But death is “the last enemy.” The second death is still death, and hence, even the second death must be abolished in the end. So at the end of time, when all have learned righteousness through the long time of divine judgment, all debt will be canceled, the accounts will be closed, and God will be all in all. Then and only then can it be said that death is truly abolished, for even the second death itself will be abolished.
A New City for a New Earth
John says in Revelation 21:1, 2,
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
John speaks from the perspective of earth’s history. When Paul spoke of this, he brought it down to the personal level in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
When everyone is truly “a new creature,” then John’s broader vision of the future is fulfilled. Just as our heavens and our earth is renewed through Christ on an individual level, as our old man is put to death and we walk out the life of the New Creation Man, so also does John see this as a universal promise.
John then links this to the marriage theme on its highest level—the marriage of heaven and earth. This fulfills Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:10,
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In other words, when heaven and earth come into agreement, then they have a perfect marriage. During the final ages of judgment, where the sinners remain in the lake of fire, there is still a need for authority, because there is still potential resistance to the will of God. Sinners are still learning obedience during that time, so that Age remains in an Old Covenant marriage which demands obedience. Afterward, when all are in agreement at the Creation Jubilee, the basis of this great marriage between heaven and earth shifts to the New Covenant pattern, where no one has to command others. All will instinctively know what to do, and no “law enforcement” will be necessary to ensure compliance.
In that sense, the law too will pass away—not that it will be abolished in the absolute sense, but that it will no longer be external. When the law is fully written on our hearts, all will do the will of God by nature, rather than by obedience. Of this time, Jesus said in Matthew 5:18,
18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.
So what happens when heaven and earth passes away? What happens when these are replaced by the new heavens and the new earth? It follows that at that time the Law passes away as well, at least in some manner. Obviously, this does not mean that chaos and disagreement suddenly are re-established. No, it is to be understood as the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of God in the New Covenant, where Hebrews 8:11 says,
11 And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.
This shows that full knowledge of God will be in everyone, and it also implies that no one will have to command anyone to know Him or His will. Commands are a function of the Old Covenant, and when the New Covenant is universally implemented, no commands are necessary in the sense that we understand them today.
It is difficult to conceive of such a time, for we have only seen short glimpses of such things from time to time as we are led by the Spirit. This goal is a long way down the corridor of history. For this reason, the law has not yet been abolished. As long as there is disagreement in the earth, the law of God will be needed to set the standard and to make sin sinful.
Speaking of the goal of history, Isaiah 65:17-19 says,
17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and her people for gladness.
When the prophet saw “new heavens and a new earth,” it is plain that this was in contrast to the first heavens and the first earth. Or perhaps we should call it the old heavens and the old earth. In the same passage Isaiah also speaks of “Jerusalem” being created. John interprets this to mean “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2). It is not the old city, which is the earthly city, because “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind,” Isaiah tells us. The earthly Jerusalem is one of those “former things,” which are contrasted with the “new” things being created.
The entire 21st chapter of Revelation is a description of the new heavens, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem. As we will see, John quotes Isaiah many times. In each quotation, he interprets Isaiah’s “Jerusalem” as a reference to the “new Jerusalem.” This tells us that just because the Old Testament prophets use the term “Jerusalem,” it does not necessarily mean that they were referring to the earthly city.
Jerusalem is Yerushalayim in Hebrew. It literally means “two Jerusalems.” The Hebrew language has singular, plural, and dual words. If the city had been called Yerushalem, it would have been a single city. If it were Yerushalim, it would mean more than one city. But it is Yerushalayim, where the ayim ending makes it mean precisely two cities. The ancient rabbis debated the meaning of this, but the revelation was largely hidden from them. It is only when we come to the New Testament that the meaning becomes clear—at least among Christians who believe the writings of Paul and John.
The bottom line is that the Old Testament prophets speak of Jerusalem without distinguishing between the earthly city and the heavenly city. So it is left to us to discern by the Spirit which city will actually fulfill each prophecy. There are many apparent contradictions in the writings of the prophets regarding “Jerusalem.” Some portray the city as a blessing to the earth, having a glorious future; others portray the city as a curse to the nations, ultimately to be destroyed without hope. Both sets of prophecies cannot apply to the same city, but if we understand that there are two cities that carry the same name, then Scripture is not contradictory.
Shin, the Devouring Fire of God
The 21st chapter of Revelation correlates with the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is the shin, which literally means “teeth” and carries the idea of consuming or devouring. In this case, the new consumes the old, even as fire consumes that which can be burned.
The Hebrew word for “fire” is esh [אש], spelled alef and shin. Alef is literally a bull, and it means “strong, first, primary.” The shin means “teeth,” and means “to consume or devour.” Hence, “fire” is “the strong devourer.” When God came as a fire upon Mount Sinai, it was said in Deuteronomy 4:24, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire.”
The action of the consuming fire gives us the background for the time when the new heavens, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem essentially consume or devour all that is old. This is the purpose of the lake of fire, which affects not only individuals, but the entire order of both heaven and earth.
This is part 172 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones